On Wednesday afternoon, members of our group made the game-changing discovery that the radio station on the Seven Day Adventist campus had Internet access. Some of our team attached themselves to a computer and did not budge for hours, trying to communicate with colleagues, family members, the State Department, any and all avenues for a potential evacuation and then some. I, not being directly connected to anyone of influence, decided to make use of my new found free time.
In my exploration around the rest of the campus, I befriended the man who seemed to be in charge of the station, Enock Nere. His English was well understood and his patience with the desperation in our group was limitless. We walked together over to a spot shaded by some modest flora and fauna and with his help I was able to strike up a conversation with a family of four children and their mother. Another child joined the group, one who had been to the U.S. and could speak some English and French and was very proud of his education, as he should have been.
The children of the family were all young, no one above nine years old. I found the easiest way to grease the wheels with children in that circumstance was to take their picture, and then show them the picture on my digital screen. The difference in their faces before and after seeing themselves on camera was priceless. They seemed delighted to be able to see their images captured in time. I began to wonder how much I took for granted the ability to see my own reflection.
I passed the time talking to Enock and the family, still using some pitiful excuse for French to communicate. The mother was young, between 22 and 25 years old, not an abnormal age for mature motherhood in Port au Prince. Enock wanted to know what I thought of his country. Besides the obvious feelings of regret for the tragic circumstances, the truth was I thought Haiti was a beautiful country. Lush and green, what you might expect of any tropical haven. He seemed pleased with this response, which pleased me a great deal.
This was always the part of journalism that I enjoyed the most. Just to talk without deadlines or angles and simply be interested in the circumstances and backgrounds of someone else. Sometimes a story worth writing surfaces, sometimes new friends are made, but every time something is learned. It’s always a win win in those situations, a major part of its appeal I imagine.
Time passed and we were called back to the Villa for dinner. When I thought the day couldn’t get any fuller, we received a new guest in our bunk, just the guest we’d been praying for.